Einstein Constancy of Speed of Light Theory Challenged

Saturday, December 3, 2016 - 13:06

A group of researchers from the UK and Canada have taken on one of Albert Einstein's accepted theories which states that the speed of light is constant and light in a vacuum will have the same numerical value under any conditions.

The assumption that the speed of light is constant, and always has been, underpins many theories in physics, such as Einstein's theory of general relativity. But some researchers have suggested that the speed of light could have been much higher in the early universe, Science Daily reports.

Now, one of this theory's originators, Professor João Magueijo from Imperial College London, working with Dr. Niayesh Afshordi at the Perimeter Institute in Canada, has made a prediction that could be used to test the theory's validity.

The new theory of the scientists, described in a paper published in the journal Physical Review, hypothesizes that the speed of light might actually be a variable.

Einstein claimed that the speed of light is constant and it would be impossible for anything to travel faster than light because it would violate the rules of physics. The speed of light was then treated to be a constant with a numerical value of 299,792,458 meters per second.

"The theory, which we first proposed in the late-1990s, has now reached a maturity point - it has produced a testable prediction," explained Professor Magueijo in a report from Daily Galaxy. If observations in the near future do find this number to be accurate, it could lead to a modification of Einstein's theory of gravity."

To test out his hypothesis, Magueijo, along with Dr Niayesh Afshordi of Perimeter Institute in Canada, used a model to put an exact figure on the spectral index, or the record of early fluctuations in the speed of light that is imprinted on the cosmic microwave background, which commonly referred to as the map of the oldest light in the universe.

The numerical figure given to the spectral index by Magueijo and Afshordi is a very precise 0.96478. The current estimate of the cosmic microwave background puts it around 0.968, suggesting a close match to Magueijo and Afshordi's estimates.

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